Fel­laini’s Man United turn­around

Mid­fielder was of­ten a scape­goat but cap­taincy shows Mour­inho's full faith in the Bel­gian

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — “Manch­ester United cap­tain Marouane Fel­laini” are five words Red Devils sup­port­ers never thought they would read this sea­son.

How­ever the tow­er­ing Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional de­fied the odds to lead Jose Mour­inho’s men to vic­tory against a side man­aged by the man who brought him to Old Traf­ford.

Fel­laini’s four years at United have been topsy-turvy to say the least with the former Ever­ton man scor­ing cru­cial goals while also be­ing booed by his home fans.

How­ever Mour­inho has put his full faith in the 6ft 5in mid­fielder by giv­ing Fel­laini the arm­band in the ab­sence of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata.

Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic cap­tained his coun­try and former sides with dis­tinc­tion while An­der Her­rera has been tipped to take over the cap­taincy from Rooney on a full-time ba­sis next sea­son but Mour­inho chose to make a point.

In fact, Mour­inho has backed Fel­laini from day one with the former Chelsea boss tex­ting the box-to-box mid­fielder be­fore last sum­mer’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

Fel­laini said of his text from the United boss: “Mour­inho con­tacted me by text to say wel­come to United and to wish me a good Euro.

“As far as my fu­ture is con­cerned, I’m un­der con­tract with Manch­ester United. In ad­di­tion, a great man­ager, Jose Mour­inho, is ar­riv­ing.

“He likes to win ti­tles and I would be hon­oured and proud to work with him. Now it’s up to me to show he can trust me.”

Mour­inho def­i­nitely trusts Fel­laini. He has played 38 games so far this sea­son and is likely to play a key role in United’s fi­nal eight Pre­mier League en­coun­ters and two-legged Europa League quar­ter-fi­nal with An­der­lecht.

Pun­dits tipped Mour­inho to cash in on Fel­laini after fork­ing out a world record £86 mil­lion on Pogba but they have been proved wrong.

In fact, Mour­inho has said Fel­laini is Pogba’s “nat­u­ral re­place­ment” when the French­man is out of his start­ing line-up.

Fel­laini was of­ten made the scape­goat for United’s de­feats un­der Moyes as the Bel­gian was the club’s only ma­jor sign­ing in the sum­mer of 2013.

Moyes and then newly-ap­pointed ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man Ed Wood­ward chased sev­eral big names — in­clud­ing Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabre­gas — but were left with just Fel­laini on dead­line day.

United sacked Moyes in April and Fel­laini was left at Old Traf­ford with his fu­ture hang­ing in the bal­ance just months after his £27.5mil­lion move.

Van Gaal utilised Fel­laini’s strengths and his big­gest goal for the club thus far came in United’s FA Cup semi-fi­nal win over Ever­ton.

Fel­laini scored the open­ing goal at Wem­b­ley against his former side be­fore An­thony Mar­tial net­ted a last-minute win­ner to send United into the fi­nal.

He also played a key role in United’s FA Cup fi­nal vic­tory, which proved to be Van Gaal’s last game at the club, as his knock down to Mata led to United can­celling out Ja­son Pun­cheon’s goal.

His most dis­ap­point­ing mo­ment came against Ever­ton ear­lier this sea­son when he con­ceded an 89th-minute penalty which Leighton Baines con­verted to claim a late point.

Sec­tions of the Old Traf­ford faith­ful then booed Fel­laini as he was brought on in the fol­low­ing game against Zo­rya but Mour­inho still put his full sup­port be­hind him.

Mour­inho, in a clever ploy to back Fel­laini, then al­lowed United’s No 27 to play the fi­nal minute of his side’s 1-0 win over Tot­ten­ham in what was another vote of confidence at Old Traf­ford.

Fel­laini ran over to Mour­inho and hugged his man­ager after his goal against Hull City in Jan­uary to show his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the pub­lic back­ing.

Moyes would have been crit­i­cised for giv­ing Fel­laini the arm­band — even if it was just for one game — but Mour­inho has the per­son­al­ity and charisma to deal with any crit­i­cism.

And it seems Fel­laini has a sim­i­lar mind­set to his man­ager.

Marouane Fel­laini dons the cap­tain’s arm­band in the ab­sence of skip­per Wayne rooney in last Sun­day’s match.

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